The Gentlemen Are Entering the Chat
I just want to point out an interesting development in this installment of the rom-com-athon: this includes our first guest contributor who is not a woman! When I pursued the idea of guest contributors I asked Zekefilm’s founder, Jim Tudor, if he would write a review and he graciously said, “Yes.” That review is forthcoming. But my general appeal for reviewers brought in only women, enforcing the idea that these movies are chick flicks. I’m not convinced that’s true. I think there are a lot of guys out there enjoying holiday romance movies who just don’t talk about it. But whatever the case may be, I made a direct request for men to join the team and wrangled three more of my friends onto the project. A great review by Robert Hornack is below. You’ll be hearing from Tim, Justin, and Jim in the days ahead.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Just a reminder that this is all about the Benjamins. We’ve now passed $1800 toward our $4800 goal for asbestos remediation in our friend’s home. You can help us out by pledging per movie on this form: https://forms.gle/LdpkmPiDppD9aTjF7. If you don’t want to mess with pledging and just want to make a flat donation, you can find me on Venmo (@Sharon-Autenrieth), PayPal (@sharonautenrieth1) and the Cash App ($SharonAutenrieth).
Entry #16: YOU, ME & THE CHRISTMAS TREES (2021)
DIRECTED BY DAVID WINNING
Watched: November 28, 2021
Our Romantic Couple: Olivia (Danica McKellar) and Jack (Benjamin Ayres)
Their Meet Cute: He rear ends her car in a roundabout while she is one her way to meet with him. To be fair, roundabouts are hard and it’s a wonder we don’t all meet our soul mates this way.
Plot Synopsis: Jack is a fourth generation Connecticut Christmas tree farmer whose family business is in danger because this year’s batch of trees are turning brown and dropping their needles within just a few days of being sold. Olivia is an arborist at U Conn, the foremost evergreen specialist in New England – and also, a cute single woman who called off her Christmas wedding and is now trying to avoid going home to see her wealthy, pretentious parents.
Olivia is called in to try to diagnosis the problem with Jack’s trees and her stay in his hometown stretches longer and longer as the mystery of the trees deepen and the sparks (and horticulture puns) fly between our leads.Will Jack lose the family business? Will he be able to provide the town tree for the Christmas Eve tree lighting? Will Olivia be able to avoid the “Christmas gala” her mother keeps going on about? And will love really take root between Jack and Olivia? (See what I did there? I can also make a plant-based joke.)
Star Power: Danica McKellar, of course, forever beloved as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. There’s someone else here that old Wonder Years fans will recognize, but let’s keep him out of this category lest we degrade it.
110% Award: There are two winners, for very different reasons. Firstly, to Daniel Bacon as Mayor Maguire, in his THIRD solid supporting role in the Hallmark 2021 lineup. Way to work the Hallmark Industrial Complex, Mr. Bacon! I hope you got a nice vacation after filming those three very bad movies!
Secondly, and with an accompanying seldom-used “Ow! My Eyes!” Award, Jason Hervey as Dwayne – the evil competitor Christmas tree farmer who trash talks Jack throughout the film and tries to sabotage the town Christmas tree.Hervey played Kevin’s Arnold’s dumb, mean older brother in The Wonder Years, and I am guessing he hasn’t done a lot since. I don’t want to check his IMDB page. I just want to shed the memory of how he looks in You, Me & the Christmas Trees and how he chooses to deliver this performance. It’s all alarming, but I’ll give him this: it’s a choice.
Observations:Here are three things around which you should not build a movie plot: waiting for grass grow, waiting for paint dry, and waiting for pine needles to fall off of a tree. You would not believe how much of this movie hinges on staring at trees waiting for something to happen.
The puns. Oh, lord. The puns. The first, delivered in a fit of pique, comes after Jack questions whether Olivia can really solve his problem. “You’re hedging your bets,” he says. And she replied, “I’m all about evergreens. I don’t do hedges.” And I knew then and there I was in for a long night with this movie.
There is a scene in which Jack and Olivia banter over the proper preparation of hot cocoa. He piles a pound of whipped cream on his and then sticks his face right into it, leading to the awkward/flirt “You’ve got a little something on your nose” business. But, friends. actor Benjamin Ayres is 44 years old. Watching him stick his face in whipped cream and come up pretending he doesn’t know it’s there is less cute than creepy. Especially since, at this point in the movie, he’s known Olivia for a few hours and she is an academic who has come to his town on business. Just ick, y’all.
There’s more alcohol in this movie than most Hallmark films. Jack’s best friends run a cidery which does bang up business at 8 a.m. (some might suggest you need a lot of hard cider to live in a Hallmark town). They host a cocktail making contest at the cidery, and of course Jack and Olivia bicker over who will win: Jack with his free-wheeling instincts? Or Olivia, with her beakers and her scientific approach. She ends up winning after adding pine needles to her cocktain. Pine needles, friends. Pine needles in a cocktail. I don’t really drink cocktails, but I have to ask….pine needles?
We are a few days out from Christmas through most of this movie – in fact, in most Hallmark movies people live “a few days out from Christmas” the whole time. It’s like they’re suspended in amber on December 23. In any case, as with so many of these dumb movies, the town Christmas tree is not place or lit until December 24. Why? Why on earth do they wait so long? The clever thing THIS movie does is let Olivia ask that very question, offering Jack a chance to explaint the quaint town tradition. And I listened, I really did, but I don’t remember the story and I don’t care. It still doesn’t make sense.
Jack’s mom invites Olivia to her big “very special” Christmas gift exchange party. This turns out to just be her immediate family and her new boyfriend having a white elephant exchange. By this standard, I go to a lot of “very special” Christmas parties.
Jack and Olivia both buy the same thing for the gift exchange – a book on the history of the Christmas tree. Wow. That is like….a really bad gift. These two deserve each other.
The “science” in this movie is really unconvincing and boils down to things like, “I’ve been under a lot of stress…that’s it! Maybe your trees are stressed!” and “Sorry, I’ve got sap on my hands….that’s it! We’ll use sap as a bonding agent!” Danica McKellar in real life is a scholar. Danica McKellar onscreen, not so much.
I have figured out that one of the problems with these movies is that they are all attempting to create dramatic tension without introducing any story lines that really might stress folks out. This means that characters have conflict around things that really don’t matter that much (like crop diversification) and act like weirdos. In other words, Jack is as prickly as a pinecone over the idea of growing anything but Christmas trees.
The only police officer in Jack’s hometown is approximately 16 years old.
This is one of those Hallmark movies with a hard deadline and a character who keeps saying, “I should keep working” just before they go off to build a gingerbread house or make a cocktail with pine needles in it.
It’s not great, people. Not great.
BINGO? I can’t believe I didn’t get BINGO. 12 boxes checked and still no BINGO!
Available on the Hallmark Channel, Frndly app, YouTube TV, you know the drill.
Entry #17: THE CHRISTMAS CONTEST (2021)
DIRECTED BY PAULA ELLE
Danielle Fields is a university CFO, adjunct faculty member at two colleges, church worship director, wife, special needs mom, hobby baker, and is eternally, profoundly exhausted. With what little free time she has, she enjoys planning her next trip to Disney World and trying to find Central Illinois’ tastiest horseshoe (it’s an artery-clogging local delicacy … if you’re ever in the area, you should try one).
Watched: November 29, 2021, Hallmark
Our romantic couple: Lara Cottridge (Candace Cameron Bure), COO of a multinational consulting corporation; and Ben Winters (John Brotherton), gym owner, purveyor of beef jerky (no, really), and former Major League Baseball MVP.
The plot in 15 seconds or less: Lara and Ben are pitted against one another in the Daytime Denver Christmas Contest to earn $50,000 for the charity of their choosing. But PLOT TWIST! Lara and Ben aren’t strangers. In fact, they used to be engaged. Can they earn some money for a good cause and overcome their animosity for one another along the way? (It’s a Hallmark movie … you already know the answer, friends.)
Famous folx: The two leads are literally the only people I recognized in this movie. I even resorted to scouring IMDB in case I’m just an uncultured swine, but no — I couldn’t pick the rest of these people out of a lineup.
The lowdown: Y’all, I am an unabashed Hallmark movie stan. I happily curl up on my couch every year with my cup of cocoa and watch as Susan steps back from her high powered career-girl job in the big city and returns home just in time for the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony. I swoon as her friendship with the rugged local restaurant owner blossoms into G-rated romance and smile when they jaunt around town together as she models a string of beautiful peacoats while he wears the same chunky sweater and work boots. But this movie? Oof.
The first half an hour is downright unbearable. So much so that I actually turned it off, telling my husband, “I can’t do this right now.” I expected the two leads to have a lot of chemistry, since they were costars on Fuller House on Netflix (side note: while I know we were supposed to be all about DJ and Steve being endgame, I was decidedly #teamMatt). However, that chemistry was absolutely lost amongst the antagonistic way they treated each other in the beginning. The acting was up in the rafters; I’m convinced they were at the top of their class at the William Shatner School of Overacting for Overactors who Overact. True, Ben broke off Lara’s engagement — citing his status as a “lone wolf” — so of course she’s hurt, but yowza, the scene chewing. I will say, the second half is much improved.
After participating in the first competition event, a trivia contest in which Lara and Ben both showed their whole rear ends, our former lovebirds were told to assemble teams for the remainder of the competition. Ben’s team, Winters Wonderland, was comprised entirely of adorable children, the purported recipients of the scholarships Ben would create should he win. Lara’s team, Sleigh the Competition (groan), included her mother, one of her mother’s friends from the senior center, and, inexplicably, Ben’s grandma.
Lara planned to give the $50K to the down-on-its-luck senior center if her team won.Following two rounds that consisted off a bakeoff and a choreographed Christmas caroling routine (both of which were filled with shenanigans … including Lara revealing that her favorite Christmas song is “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” for some ridiculous reason), Lara and Ben are left as the top two finalists in the competition. For their final event, they had to cohost a Christmas party, where they were tasked with each decorating a tree and reading the essays they submitted to apply for the contest, detailing what Christmas means to them.
In standard Hallmark movie fashion, Lara and Ben slowly rekindled their feelings for one another while planning the party. While spending an evening together at Lara’s house, Ben admits that he has thought about Lara for years, while Lara admits that the best thing about Ben is that he turns her world upside down.
Without recapping or spoiling the entire movie, let’s just say that the standard “everything goes to pot 15 minutes before the end of the film” rules apply here, causing the Christmas party to be a bust, and inspiring both of our lead characters to recant their original essays and write new ones. But take heart, reader … a cute callback to something Lara says saves the day, and all’s well that ends well. Hallmark wouldn’t have it any other way.
Random observations: You know how sometimes you can tell when a movie had to go into the sound studio and re-record some dialogue? There is SO MUCH of that here. The sound editing in this movie is absolute garbage and was a giant distraction for me.
In the grand tradition of mothers, Lara’s mom is not quick to forgive Ben for hurting her baby girl, despite Lara’s protests. I felt this in my soul. Once you’ve hurt my feelings and I’ve told my mom about it, forget it. You’re out of the will forever. In an effort to mend fences, Ben offers to go back to the senior center with Lara’s mom and her friends to play poker. Of course, Ben wins with a … get ready, kids … full house (har har).
I disliked the first part of the movie so much that I took to Twitter to see what other folks thought about it. I did find one soulmate who said it was so bad they turned it off, but the majority of folks said it was their favorite of Candace Cameron Bure’s Christmas movies so far. I’m starting to wonder if my general distaste for her has tainted my opinion. But I stand by it; John Brotherton deserves better (and so did Matt!)
So, did I get a bingo? No, but close! Just one Christmas proposal away from a win!
Entry #18: THE NINE KITTENS OF CHRISTMAS (2021)
DIRECTED BY DAVID WINNING
Watched: November 30, 2021
Our Romantic Couple: Marilee (Kimberley Sustad) and Zachary (Brandon Routh)
Their Meet Cute: This is a sequel, but they RE-meet when Marilee visits her hometown for Christmas and runs into Zachary dressed as an elf.
Plot Synopsis: Since last we saw Marilee and Zachary, they’ve broken up because Zachary was too set in his ways and Marilee wanted change (I guess?). She moved to Miami, became a vet, opened a clinic with her new hottie of a boyfriend, Miles, and got engaged. Zachary got a promotion at the firehouse and started rehabbing another home.Now Mariliee is back in town to spend the holidays with her sister’s family. Miles was supposed to join her, but is too busy with work to come – which is, apparently, a pattern – and so Marilee breaks up wtih him over the phone. Zachary finds a box of kittens at the firehouse and enlists Marilee’s help in getting them all adopted, which allows them to spend lots and lots of time together. And you know, sparks fly. But Miles shows up! WIll Marilee go back to her fast paced professional life in Miami with Miles, or stay in her Christmas-obsessed hometown with her handsome, rehabbing firefighter, Zachary?
Star Power: As always, Brandon Routh, formerly Superman and also of Chuck. Also, Gregory Harrison (Chief Sam), who as I noted last year, when reviewing The Nine Lives of Christmas, won my heart when I was just as a kid, through his role in the miniseries Centennial.
110% Award: The kittens, who are forever climbing out of boxes and weasling out of people’s arms. They are adorable and also, I work a day job in a cat shelter. I can tell you this is legit. Trying to wrangle kittens is much harder than it looks.
Observations: Zachary’s beautiful orange cat Ambrose is back and still glorious. Pour one out for Queenie, Marilee’s cat, who is no longer with us. Marilee has a new long haired cat named Duchess, but she seems to have less personality than Queenie. Still, she’s purrfect. (Sorry, this review is being written by a cat lady.)I
t’s weird to me how thoroughly Marilee and Zachary broke up. As in, neither of them has a clue what the other has been doing for the last five years. No social media browsing? No Zachary running into Marilee’s sister, Jaclyn, in this small town and just asking how Marilee is doing? No Marilee asking Jaclyn about Zachary? How bad was this breakup???
It is Fire Chief Sam’s day off. Sam is doing Christmasy things with his wife, Harriet, when his phone starts buzzing. Harriet is frustrated because Sam’s job consumes his life. Sam says he doesn’t need to worry about the messages because he has two captains covering the firehouse that day, but eventually checks his phone and tells Harriet that it’s urgent. Zachary needs him at the firehouse. Do you know what the emergency is? Zachary found a box of kittens.
Chief Sam decides to retire and chooses Zachary to be the new fire chief. Okay, but revisit the paragraph just before this one and ask yourself, “Is Zachary really ready to be in charge?”
Zachary and Marilee turn finding adopters for the kittens into a whole thing – special events, flyers, applications, home visits. Do you know who would be well equipped to do all of that? An animal rescue. “Ah,” you interject, “But maybe there ISN’T an animal rescue in this small town.” But there definitely is, because the woman who started it almost adopts three of the kittens until she is enlisted to bottle feed some younger kittens her rescue just took in. At no point does she or anyone else in this move suggest that seasoned rescue professionals might be able to help with the kitten. Zachary, just because you *found* the kittens doesn’t mean you have to personally adopt them out. You can pass that job onto people who do this all the time.
As a retirement gift for Sam, his daughter Gabi (who is now a firefighter) suggests restoring a beat up old firetruck that Sam bought years ago. It’s really a mess, and the fire crew restores it completely in less than a week. I just…
There is a great moment when, at an adoption event, Zachary complains that another firefighter is talking Marilee’s ear off (he’s jealous). That firefighter, who is named Mason, has said nothing. I wish this was being played for a joke, but it’s not. It’s as if someone forgot to give Mason his lines.
Harriet, in a frenzy of baking to donate to fundraisers, says, “We can’t overcommit to charity, Sam!” This joins Hallmark quotes, “There’s no such thing as too many Christmas decorations,” and “You can’t have too many Christmas lights!” in setting an impossibly high bar for holidays. These folks are going to burn out on Christmas. Easy, Harriet.
I’m really not sure what Miles did wrong. He seems supportive and loving, he’s serious about making sure this new veterinary practice does well – he just isn’t good at taking time off. But for Marilee to dump him so quickly at the beginning of this movie, ultimately because he’s not small town, hot cocoa drinking Zachary. Well, that seems like a Kimberly problem, not a Miles problem.
There are a few genuinely witty lines in this movie, as in – after telling someone cats save on therapy, Zachary tells Marilee, “Comet is going to the lady who liked my therapy joke.” Marilee replies, “Well, she’s a therapist, so I doubt that.”Or this one, when they are desperately trying to find more adopters, Zachary says: “I’ve already hit up everyone who ever sent me a kitten meme.” That’s maybe not comedy gold, but it’s funnier than most Hallmark lines.
Hallmark is very into pet adoption – and good for them! So this movie and its predecesor, The Nine LIves of Christmas, both contain little learning moments about pet ownership. You almost expect a “The more you know” banner to pop up onscreen. The really great news, though, is that all of the kittens featured in this film were adopted by cast or crew members. Hurray for cats! Hurray for pet adoption!
I did not hate this movie. It is predictable as heck – my BINGO card was nearly covered – but Sustad and Routh are both so amiable, and the cats are cute. It was like a warm cup of cocoa: pleasant and will make you sleepy.
BINGO? Oh, yes. Much BINGO.
Available wherever you find the Hallmark Channels.
Entry #19: DEAR CHRISTMAS (2020)
DIRECTED BY EMILY MOSS WILSON
Robert Hornak is a film professor with a 3-year-old, so he splits his time roughly equally between Bogey and Blippi. He’s never watched a Christmas rom-com before and considers this one his due diligence for the genre. His wife runs a research lab at Baylor and is smarter than him by many factors. And the 3-year-old is catching up.
It’s Christmastime, and Melissa Joan Hart (MJH) is an award-winning podcaster out of Chicago, headed home this season to livestream her next episode – a set-up that promises gaffes, and they better be good. Her opening-credits podcast patter questions the depth of “holiday romance” in general, as it’s an experience already festooned with the delicate reminders of home and hearth: decorating, sitting by the fire, hot chocolate…so who could resist it, if all those trappings came mistletoe’d to someone to call your very own? But, she asks, what happens when the snow melts? Would it all turn out to be just a “seasonal allergy”? As a newbie to this kind of movie, but having a preconceived notion that every Christmas rom-com starts with a guy and gal who hate each other slipping on the same patch of ice into each other’s arms, MJH’s questions sound refreshingly like the ugly head of doubt butting down the walls of the entire rom-com cottage industry, and the film’s title – really the name of her podcast – I suddenly sensed and hoped could just as well be “Dear Christmas Rom-Com, About Those Tropes…” But this was not to be; it ultimately buckles into a straight-up rom-com wallowing happily in the conceits of its kind.
MJH repeats some of these same cynical – but not cynically delivered – questions to co-worker Robin Givens. It must be noted that while they are co-workers, the two actors seem like they’ve only met today, yet they talk intimately about their love lives. There’s a lot of that kind of “quickly turned around” production in the movie, which I assume is rampant across the genre, given the yearly glut. So it turns out MJH has never been in “true love”, which to her means she’s never “found someone” who can share “the ups and downs” of her “journey”. At this point it’s hard to tell if MJH needs a boyfriend or a sherpa, but we go into the story proper in good faith that the next man we meet will probably be The One to rescue her from the loneliness at the center of her apparently comfortable success and easy living.
Soon we find that this is the kind of movie where long conversations happen over montages of cars going down the road; where the tow-truck guy (middle-aged Jason Priestly) who helps MJH with her busted tire outside Tahoe is also the guy who puts up Christmas lights for everybody on her parents’ street, providing not one, but two meet-cutes; where for a fleeting moment MJH thinks all bets may be off with her prospective new bo when he’s hooking up her lights and announces “We don’t have a connection”; where Priestly’s character is named Chris Massey just so another character can compliment his decorations by saying “Looks very…Chris Massey”; and where MJH and Priestly, over a third-meet-cute coffee, learn they’ve spent their entire adult lives unknowingly on the same parts of the earth during their many travels, just missing each other until this very moment in cockeyed history. Also, as the movie persists, we learn Priestly’s not just a tow-truck-driver, a handyman, and an ad-hoc Christmas decorator, but a guitarist-for-hire, a volunteer fireman, and an artist – a game and charming fella who nevertheless gives off the vibe of a guy subletting Martin Riggs’ old trailer on the beach.
Priestly is rarely in a scene that’s not begun by her discovering him at another job. The moment happens so often they should’ve just called the movie “Meet-Cute”. (A story tack compounded by MJH’s fans continually sending her videos of their own meet-cute stories.) The problem with Priestly is we never get to see him when he’s not walking and talking with her. We never see him with friends, in his own life. This problem is so dire that the only way we can know he’s falling in love with her is when he calls his sister, who we never see, and tells her all about it…
It was right about this moment that I came to an understanding with the movie and with myself. “Self, this movie is not meant for you…stop expecting Eternal Sunshine.” And after that, it wasokay with me that the entire running time is so bereft of any version of conflict, save for MJH’s internal romantic angst, that it winds up with all the edge of a Christmas tree ball, that it’s sochaste it doesn’t recognize its own dirty mind (when MJH climbs into Priestly’s tow truck she finds a dessert gift to him from another woman with a card that says “Thanks for the jump.” MJH- and the movie – lets the remark zip right by at face value.), and that all of her questions at the beginning are never truly answered, that her definition of true love being “finding the right one to blend into together” is never tested against anything at all resembling a life challenge, so the movie ends before we can see what might happen “after the snow melts”. I accepted that this movie, or any of these movies probably, are supposed to be safe and comfortable, a respite from the darkness just down the “trending now” row. It all works out fine and everyone’s in love and happy. My one request: if you’re going to set up a live-streamed, gaffe-filled podcast, don’t let the liveness play zero part in the resolution – especially if you’ve got a pregnant sister ready to pop for the first 80 minutes of your story. I can only be let down so much.
Available on Amazon Prime.
Entry #20: NO SLEEP ‘TIL CHRISTMAS (2018)
DIRECTED BY PHIL TRAILL
Watched: December 2, 2021
Our Romantic Couple: LIzzie (Odette Annable) and Billy (David Annable)
Their Meet Cute: Billy can’t sleep and is out for a middle-of-the-run. Lizzie can’t sleep and is out for a middle-of-the-night drive. She hits him with her car.
Plot Synopsis: I usually try not to spoil the endings – although that raises the question of whether these movies *can* be spoiled – but I’m spoiling this one. You were warned.It’s Thanksgiving-ish and Lizzie (event planner) is engaged to dreamy doctor Josh with their wedding scheduled right after Christmas. Lizzie hasn’t slept more than an hour or two in months and is struggling at work and in wedding planning. Billy, a bartender, also can’t sleep – although he believes he functions better with no sleep. After hitting Billy with her car, Lizzie drives him to the hospital but before they can even go inside, the two of them fall asleep in the hospital parking lot and get their first good night’s sleep in ages.
Lizzie decided that maybe Billy is the key to a good night’s sleep and offers him a generous contract to “sleep” with her every night leading up to her wedding (Josh works nights a lot, so it’s cool). Billy thinks she’s bananas, but sees the money as an opportunity to buy a bar of his own. It turns out that, yes, the two of them can only sleep well next to each other so after a couple more nights in the car they switch to either a swanky hotel or Billy’s ratty apartment. Over time their initially prinkly relationship turns friendly. Billy buys his bar and opens it to great success. Lizzie plans her wedding. Sparks are flying, doubts are growing, but Lizzie is determined to marry Josh. Unfortunately, Josh grows suspicious and catches Billy and Lizzy together at the hotel. After compelling the sleep-disordered couple to go through a sleep study which proved that, yes, they are capable of sleeping together, Josh believes Lizzy’s explanation and forgives her for hiding what she’s been doing. Lizzy calls off the arrangement with Billy and pressses on, now sleepless, toward her wedding day.
And then Lizzie falls asleep during her wedding. This is a clue to Josh that maybe things are not great and he gently questions Lizzy about whether she still wants to marry him. She declines, leaves the church, swipes the fancy wedding car (I should know what it is – I don’t) and chases down Billy. Literally. She sees him running and “accidentally” hits him with her car. Again.
In a postscript one year later, Billy and Lizzie are living together happily and – surprise! – have a baby.
Star Power Casting: Sheryl Lee Ralph, who plays Josh’s mom was Brandy’s mom on Moesha and has been a regal presence in many films and shows. I was not familiar with the two leads, but Odette Annable was a regular on Supergirl, as Samantha Arias/”Reign”. This means my husband would recognize her. David Annable was a regular on Brothers & Sisters, yet another series I haven’t watched. Josh is a cast member on NCIS: New Orleans and starred opposite Lea Michele in 2019’s Same Time Next Christmas, covered in that year’s rom-com-athon.
110% Award: Scott Cavalheiro, as Josh’s friend, Simon, who inconveniently shows up twice when Billy and Lizzie are trying to be discreet. He’s a bland Hallmark leading man, so seeing him as a comic monkey wrench was a switch.
Observations: This movies premise sounds so terrible, I fully expected to hate it. I didn’t. It’s actually pretty funny and the leads are unnecessarily good.
Odette Annable was giving me STRONG Mary Elizabeth Winstead vibes. I could not stop thinking how much she reminded me of her, but this is not a bad thing. I love Mary Elizabeth Winstead and I thought Odette Annable was great.
The two leads are married in real life. This doesn’t always equal chemistry onscreen, but it worked here. The banter and jabs seem comfortable and affectionate, not meanspirited. And there’s a lot of banter and jabbing.
This is not a Hallmark move. Mind the swears.
The explanations for why these two can’t sleep are…not satisfactory. And the amount of sleep loss seems like it would have killed them by now. But maybe I shouldn’t overthink it.
Some satisfying comic moments: In a panic, Billy tells the desk clerk at the hotel that his last name is Wil…p…son. And the two of them are stuck after that as Mr. and Mrs. Wilpson when checkinginto the hotel.
As Lizzy runs out of the church on her wedding day, her best friend/coworker/maid of honor observes, correctly, “It must really hurt to run in those shoes.”
Also, Josh’s sleep researcher friend telling Josh, “It’s Christmas Eve and I still have to drive to Cedar Rapids to argue with my dad about whatever he thinks he saw on Fox News this morning.”
Wait. That last one isn’t actually funny.
+10 points for each of the lead characters having a lesbian friend and the movie DOESN’T pair them up. It genuinely surprised me. I was fully prepared for Lizzy’s friend Kristina and Billy’s friend Vivian to catch each other’s eyes at some point in the movie. But nope.
A few problems. On the opening night at Billy’s bar, Lizzy and her friends show up for her bachelorette party. She sings karaoke with Billy. Both of them are VERY bad, which is fine, but they sing the worst of all “Christmas” songs – “Fairytale of New York” by the Pogues. Ugh. Gross.
Josh’s mom is a control freak who wants to be involved in every detail of the wedding, but they are planning the whole huge extravaganza in approximately five weeks? What? How?
Also, Billy buys, remodels, staffs and opens a bar in a matter of…days? The timelines in these movies never work.
I really, really, really didn’t want Lizzie to hit Billy with her car in the last scene. I could feel it coming and I was literally trying to talk the movie out of it – “You’re better than this! It’s such a hack move! Don’t do it!” Reader, it did it.
Now the real problem. I hate the interruped-wedding trope. It’s so vicious. Yes, it’s better to call it off last minute than to go through with a loveless marriage, but that’s a real “pick your poison” situation. I struggle having sympathy with someone who waits *that long* to get their crap together. And in Lizzie’s case, she never does – she never comes to her senses on her own. She needs kind, supportive, gracious Josh to recognize what’s happening (when she dozes off as he is making vows to her) and force the issue. It’s SO CRUEL! For her to then be happy with Billy 10 minutes later (after hitting him with her car) makes her seem like a sociopath. If I was Billy I would wonder about the character of someone who could rip the heart out of the man she loved like, LAST WEEK, leaving him to pick up the pieces of his called off wedding, and be smooching someone else before the guests have even filed out of the church. I hate this plot point in every movie that has ever used it. I hate it.
Available on Hulu.